Monday, May 28, 2012

military glamour shots

On this Memorial Day holiday, I am honoring my ancestors and their siblings that had military service.  Following is photographs of them:
World War II
My paternal grandfather Paul C. Wadleigh (1925-2007)
Paul served in the Navy during WWII as a mine sweeper in the Pacific Theater. 
He later served in the Korean War before being discharged in 1954 as a lieutenant.
My grandfather's oldest brother Eric J. Wadleigh (1916-2011)
Eric was a member of the 72nd Field Artillery Regiment of the Army during World
War II. 

My grandfather's middle brother Gerald M. Wadleigh (1920-1984)
Gerald was a lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, serving in
Germany and England.  He was discharged in 1946. 
My maternal grandfather Ben T. Plymale (1926-1981)
Ben was in the ROTC during high school and then served in the Navy between 1944
and 1946.  During his service, he was based primarily on Guam.
My maternal grandmother's only brother Deane F. Bixby (1921-1944)
Deane was a lieutenant in an engineer battalion of the Army between 1942 and 1944,
serving in Europe on two separate deployments.  At the end of his second deployment
he was in charge of mine-sweeping and road clearing so that tanks could proceed.
  Somewhere in Germany in December 1944 he was personally inspecting a road in spite
of machine-gun fire when he was killed by an enemy bullet.  His heroism apparently
saved the lives of his men behind him and allowed them to capture 28 German soldiers.
  He was awarded a posthumous Bronze Star.

World War I
My great-grandfather's brother Gerald T. Wadleigh (1893-1983)
Gerald served in the Navy during World War I.
My great-grandfather Benjamin H. Plymale (1888-1929)
Benjamin served as a Mess Sergeant in the Army during World War I between
1917 and 1919. He served in Europe, with the majority of time spent in France. 

My great-grandfather Neil F. Bixby (1893-1985)
Neil served in the Army during World War I from 1917 to 1919, being
stationed in Europe. He later worked as a civilian for the Army
Corps of Engineers for over 30 years.

Civil War

My great-great-great-grandfather Irvin H. Thurston (1828-1887)
Irvin was a physician by profession, so he served in the Union Army between 1862 and 1865,
first as an assistant surgeon and then as a full surgeon in the 8th Minnesota Infantry.
  With his regiment, he served in Minnesota, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Proper genealogical research aims at uncovering the truth about our ancestors, however unsavory that truth may be.  One such example of moral failings was in 1655 when my distant ancestors Robert and Susannah Latham were responsible for the death of their 14-year old servant.

In 1655, Robert and Susannah Latham were a young couple living in the town of Plymouth in Plymouth Colony, in what is now Massachusetts.  They had been married for about six years and had about four or five young children. Both Robert and Susannah came from Puritan families that were among the original settlers of the Plymouth Colony. Susannah's mother, Mary Chilton, was a passenger on the Mayflower, and said to be the first white woman to set foot on Plymouth Rock.

Robert and Susannah were not wealthy, but by the winter of 1654-1655 they did have a servant named John Walker.  John Walker was at the time about 14 years old and was perhaps an indentured servant.  On January 15, 1654/1655, John Walker died while in the custody of his "master", Robert Latham.  His body was subsequently brought before a coroner's jury.  The inspection found that John's body was covered with bruises, slashes and open sores and showed evidence of being frozen.  When questioned, Robert admitted to whipping the boy, including the day he died.  A witness also testified that at one time John was made to carry a log that was much heavier than him and when it fell on top of him, he was whipped by his master until he got up. The investigation revealed that John was also not given sufficient food, clothing or lodgings.  John was "put forth in the extremity of cold", and thus died.  The inference then is that poor John literally froze to death, his death being exacerbated by starvation, mistreatment and physical injuries.

Upon these findings, Robert Latham was arrested and was indicted for "fellonious cruelty."  At the next meeting of the court, Robert was found guilty of "manslaughter by chaunc medley." ("chance-medley" was an old legal term used to describe unintentional killing, but usually in terms of self defense) During the proceedings, Robert asked for mercy in his punishment. He was sentenced to be "burned in the hand" and all of his goods were to be confiscated by the court.  This was a rather light sentence given that the punishment for murder was execution.  The wording of his guilty verdict though implied that the jury did not believe that Robert intended for John to die, thus he was not deserving of the full punishment for murder.

Although Robert was convicted and sentenced for John's death, it became clear that his wife Susannah was also indirectly responsible for John's death.  The inference is that although Susannah might not have physically harmed John, both Robert and Susannah had colluded with each other about the treatment, and that Susannah did nothing to help him.  On June 6, 1655, Susannah was brought before the court and arraigned for cruelty.  She was never prosecuted for the crime and eventually the matter was dropped entirely in 1658, leaving her a free woman.

Robert and Susannah's oldest daughter Mercy Latham was my ancestor.  During the murder and subsequent trial of her father, Mercy was just 4-years old.  It must have been made on a strange impression on young Mercy to possibly be witness to a murder and to have known that her own parents were responsible for the death of an innocent person.

My descent from Robert and Susannah:

Robert Latham md. Susannah Winslow
- Mercy Latham md. Isaac Harris
--- Desire Harris md. John Kingman
---- Deliverance Kingman md. Ebenezer Orcutt
----- Samuel Orcutt md. Susanna Bates
------ Keziah Orcutt md. Jesse Worrick
------- Hannah Worrick md. Thaddeus Bixby
-------- Henry A. Bixby md. Mary Palfrey
--------- Henry W. Bixby md. Julia M. Thurston
---------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
----------- Patricia J. Bixby md. Ben T. Plymale
------------ Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------- Ryan Wadleigh

1. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England. Court Orders. Vol. III. 1651-1661. Boston, William White Printer, 1855.
2. Walker, J.B.R. Memorial of the Walkers of the Old Plymouth Colony.  Northampton, Metcalfe & Co., 1861.
3. Savage, James. A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1860.
4. Stratton, Eugene A. Plymouth Colony. Its History & People. 1620-1691. Salt Lake City, 1986.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Queen's American Ancestors

Augustine Warner Jr.  The original portrait was
apparently destroyed in a fire. This is probably
the copy of the portrait that was made and is now
held by the George Washington Foundation
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has a family tree that is filled with the royalty and nobility of Europe.  It might surprising then to learn that the Queen actually has American ancestors.  Ironically enough, these same American forebears are also shared by George Washington, the old nemesis of the British.  My family also descends from these same common ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II and George Washington.

The most recent common ancestors of Queen Elizabeth, George Washington and myself were Augustine Warner Jr and his wife Mildred Reade of colonial Virginia.  Both Augustine and Mildred were born in the early 1640s in Virginia.  Their parents had migrated to Virginia from England (although Mildred's mother was at least half French).  Mildred Reade also has proven direct descent from King Edward III of England through her paternal grandmother.  Mildred's great-uncle Sir Francis Windebank was Secretary of State under King Charles II. 

Augustine Warner was born in 1642 or 1643 in Virginia.  In 1658, at about the age of 16, he was sent to England where he was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School in London.  After finishing his education, he returned to Virginia where he married Mildred Reade, the daughter of a prominent Virginian landowner.  They lived together on a Virginian estate given to them by Mildred's father until 1674 when Augustine inherited his family's estate - Warner Hall - from his father.  The land containing Warner Hall had originally been granted to Augustine's father in 1642 and the plantation house was built sometime after this date.  The estate is located in Gloucester County, Virginia on the Severn River, off of Chesapeake Bay.

Augustine was prominent in Virginia politics during his adulthood.  He served in the House of Burgesses from 1666 to 1677 and was its Speaker on two separate occasions.  He later served on the Governor's Council from 1677 to 1681.  Augustine was also closely involved with Bacon's Rebellion of 1676-1677, being a supporter of Governor Berkeley.  During the crisis, the rebels managed to seize Warner Hall, damaging the house in the process.

After the death of Augustine Warner in 1681, his widow Mildred and their children continued to live at Warner Hall.  Apparently, after Augustine's death Mildred was left with custody of a large amount of arms and ammunition (perhaps left behind during Bacon's Rebellion) and she refused to give them up until they were taken from her by force. The couple had three known sons, but all three died without producing children.  The surviving heirs of Augustine and Mildred Warner were thus their three daughters: Elizabeth Warner Lewis (my ancestor), Mildred Warner Washington Gale (George Washington's ancestor) and Mary Warner Smith (Queen Elizabeth's ancestor).

Elizabeth Warner married John Lewis and inherited Warner Hall from her brother George in about 1702 and lived there until her death in 1720.  She was my direct ancestor.  Another of her direct descendants was Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame.

A current photo of Warner Hall in Gloucester County,
Virginia, from the Inn at Warner Hall's website
Mildred Warner was married first to Lawrence Washington and second to George Gale.  In 1700, she moved with her second husband to England, where she died soon after.  Mildred is the grandmother of George Washington.

Mary Warner married John Smith and settled in Gloucester County, Virginia.  Their daughter Mildred Smith married Robert Porteus and moved to England in 1720.  Their descendants later intermarried with the English gentry and nobility.  Eventually, their descendant Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married George VI of England, making them ancestors of Queen Elizabeth. 

Warner Hall stayed in the family for about 200 years, being passed down to descendants of Elizabeth Warner Lewis.  Eventually, the plantation was sold to an unrelated family in the 1830s.  Unfortunately, the estate suffered at least two devastating fires that destroyed the original 17th Century home.  The owners then rebuilt a colonial-style mansion on the original foundation, and it is still standing to this day.  Warner Hall is currently a bed & breakfast (Inn at Warner Hall) and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Although the actual house dates from the 19th Century, there are numerous outbuildings and the family cemetery which survive from earlier times.

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II made a trip to the United States and Virginia to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.  During he trip, she visited Warner Hall and placed a wreath on the grave of her ancestor Augustine Warner.  During the trip she was also given a gift of a copy of a portrait of Augustine Warner.  In England, Warner Hall is apparently known as the "home of the Queen's American ancestors." During her 1957 trip, Elizabeth was quoted in a speech saying: "Yes, I am proud of my American ancestry and of the part they played in the war that we fought against us."

My relationship to Meriwether Lewis, George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II:


1. Tyler, Lyon G. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Volume I. Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York, 1915.
2. Sorley, Merrow E. Lewis of Warner Hall, The History of a Family. self published, 1935.
3. McAllister, John M. and Tandy, Lura B. Genealogies of the Lewis and Kindred Families. E. W. Stephens Publishing Co., Columbia, Missouri, 1906.
4. Bolitho, Hector. "The Queen's American Ancestors", unknown date. Retrieved from
5. "Augustine Warner, Jr.", in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, retrieved from,_Jr.
6. "Just a little bit of history" at Inn at Warner Hall, retrieved from
7. Tombstone inscriptions, Warner Hall Cemetery, Warner Hall, Gloucester Co., Virginia
8. Hudgins, William H. "The Queen Visits Soil of Her American Ancestors", Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 17, 1957